Harrison Bader was born on the Upper East Side, raised in Bronxville and played baseball at Horace Mann High School, a private school in the Bronx.
He also spent three seasons playing for the New York Greys, a traveling team that often practiced at a field at PS 29 at 157th Street and Melrose Avenue, just a mile from Yankee Stadium.
On Tuesday, he played his first game in a Yankees uniform at Stadium and had three RBIs. In the bottom of the ninth, he saw Aaron Judge tie Babe Ruth with his 60th homer of the season and Giancarlo Stanton hit a winning grand slam.
“It was amazing,” Bader said the next day. “These are incredible feats, but everyone has a bigger vision in mind here: to win the World Series. »
Bader, who sat in the stands at Yankee Stadium when he was younger, came to the Yankees in an August trade from the Cardinals for left-hander Jordan Montgomery.
It was the most unexpected trade deadline move by the Yankees. Montgomery was a solid southpaw in the middle of a rotation the Yankees were looking to improve. To make matters worse, Bader was sidelined with plantar fasciitis and just weeks away from playing.
But the Yankees wanted an upgrade in center field after Aaron Hicks forced his way out of the starting lineup and to be able to bring Judge back into right field to reduce his wear. And then Montgomery went to the Cardinals and started pitching like the vintage CC Sabathia.
The trade has become unpopular with fans and questioned in some parts of the baseball world.
“I didn’t pay attention to any of the speeches or any of that stuff,” Bader said. “I just focused on my job to come back, and the Yankees did an amazing job with that. »
Now Bader is ready to contribute to a stretch race in the Bronx.
“I called him right after the trade,” said Kevin Martir, Bader’s former Grays teammate. “I said to him, ‘Finally, you’re in stripes. That’s what we envisioned when we were younger: playing for the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.’ »
Martir is from Brooklyn and, like most of Bader’s teammates with the Grays, lived downtown. After playing his college ball at Maryland, Martir spent time in the minors before injuries ended his career. He is now the batting coach for the Low-A Tampa branch of the Yankees.
“We were a bunch of Latin kids from the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, mostly,” said Martir, who was drafted by the Astros in the 18th round in 2015 and played three seasons as a minor. “He walked in that first day and we were like, ‘Who is this kid? But you could tell right away how much he wanted to play and how hard he worked, so he fit in perfectly.
David Owens manages the New York Grays and was briefly an assistant coach with Horace Mann. He helped orient Bader to the Grays program.
“He adapted very well right away,” Owens said. “No matter what your background, if you’re a ballplayer, you’re a ballplayer. »
Bader isn’t the only former Gray in the majors: Jose Cuas is a right-hander in the Royals’ bullpen.
“The Grays taught me that it doesn’t matter background, money or race, once you step onto a baseball diamond, the ball doesn’t care,” Bader said. “Whether you’re from Brooklyn or the Upper East Side. I was one of the underdogs because I’m not Spanish. But they welcomed me because I could play.
He played well enough to make it to the University of Florida before being drafted in the third round by the Cardinals in 2015.
He’s been working on offseason drills with Owens and other coaches and has become an elite defensive center back, which Aaron Boone and general manager Brian Cashman love about the 28-year-old. Bader won a Gold Glove award last season and also posted career highs in home runs (16) and OPS (.785).
“He was scrappy and played tough,” Martir said. “He always wanted to improve. Every year he came back bigger, stronger and faster. He put the work into it. You could say he was obsessed with the game.”
Martir is a hitting coach and he’s confident his former teammate will contribute to the plate.
“I think there’s still a lot of upside with his bat,” Martir said. “We talk about hitting, and I think he’s in the right place at the right time to get the most out of himself as an athlete. »
Now Bader is doing it with the Yankees.
“My dream was just to play in the big leagues,” Bader said. “That’s what I was obsessed with. So when I came to the majors with the Cardinals, it’s not like I was still thinking about the Yankees.
“But I’ve always wanted to play the game on the biggest stage, so deep down I thought about New York. It really is a different feeling. It makes me fall in love with New York all over again. But no matter where I am, I have a job to do.
record a thought
The Yankees only have a few weeks before the playoffs to get their bullpen in order. Clay Holmes leads the team with 20 saves, but the right-hander hasn’t been the same since the All-Star break and lacks playoff experience.
Aroldis Chapman has a lot of playoff experience, much of it not good. He’s second on the Yankees with nine saves, but he’s not guaranteed to be on the playoff roster, let alone in the closest role.
Next is Wandy Peralta with four saves. Boone noted the southpaw’s “fearlessness”, but Peralta is out until at least early October with a back injury. The Yankees are still hopeful for his return before the playoffs.
Zack Britton, back on Thursday after missing a year after UCL surgery last season, needs to show his business is back after being out for so long.
Just like they did for most of the second half, the Yankees may have to piece together the end of games.
Ducks on the pond
Oswaldo Cabrera has stood out in various ways since being recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in mid-August. He has shown an ability to play all four inside positions and two outside corner spots.
But perhaps his most impressive feat came at the plate: In four plate appearances with the bases loaded, the 23-year-old Cabrera is 3-for-3 with a walk and eight RBIs, including a grand slam in the first Wednesday’s game of victory against the Pirates.
He has work to do in other situations, though. Cabrera has just seven RBIs in 119 plate appearances without the bases loaded.
Still, it’s another example of how Cabrera has shown his ability to not be overwhelmed by new and different places in the majors.